The most curious case of the Alf Calverley transfers

Alfred  Godfrey Calverley was born 24 November 1917

He joined Huddersfield Town from school, played a couple of games for Mossley on loan and then returned to Huddersfield.

He was still registered with Huddersfield when the war ended guested for several clubs during the Second World War including Leeds, Bradford, Clapton Orient.  In one match on 25 December 1943, in front of 7,792, the record crowd for that season at Huddersfield Calverley scored a hat-trick in Huddersfield Town’s 3-0 victory over Leeds.   But Calverley never once played for the Huddersfield first team in the League.

Eventually he went to Mansfield Town in June 1946 – the time when clubs were preparing for the start of the first official football season in seven years.  Squads were seriously depleted, managers didn’t really know which players they had available and how competent they were, and everyone was scrabbling for squad members on the recently re-opened transfer market.

Even so it was surprising that Calverley was signed by Arsenal for £2,500 on 11 March 1947.  Mansfield Town were heading to the ignominy of coming bottom – yes actually bottom – of the Third Division South scoring 48 goals in 42 league games by the end of the season.  So did they really have a winger worthy of Arsenal?

He had scored once in thirty League appearances for Mansfield Stags and also played one F.A. Cup tie.

Calverley played 11 games for Arsenal – the last of the season save the very last, at outside left.  His first match was Arsenal 4 Preston North End 1 on 15 March 1947, and started something of a revival for Arsenal, with the team winning seven and drawing two of the last 12.  Hardly sensational, but a major step up for a time that was looking a possibility for relegation.

In fact he was one of no less than 11 players tried out that season as a replacement for Cliff Bastin  – ultimately in 1947/8 it was McPherson and then Dennis Compton who held the outside left position to win the league.

George Allison resigned as manager at the end of the 1946/7 season after a lifetime’s dedication to the club, plus two championships, an FA Cup, and single-handedly holding the club together (when it was forced to play at White Hart Lane) during the war.

Calverley’s last match for Arsenal was a 2-1 home win against Everton on 31 May 1947 – Allison’s last game. Tom Whittaker took over as manager for the last game of the season and didn’t pick Calverley, and on 24 July 1947 he was sold to Preston.

Calberley played 13 times before PNE then sold the player for £1500 – a loss of £1000 in just a couple of months – but that could be excused by the fact that Arsenal changed manager, Allison was desperate when he bought him, and clearly he had some impact as the results did turn around somewhat.  But Tom Whittaker’s side took the first division by storm in 1947/8 winning the title easily so we can’t be critical of either manager at all.

But Calverley’s adventures were not over for in November 1947 Doncaster Rovers of the second division signed him for £4000.  So his fee had gone up, when Arsenal bought, down, when Arsenal sold, and then up again, when the player dropped to the second division.

He made his Doncaster début on 29 November 1947 in front of a crowd of 16,710 at Belle Vue as Doncaster beat Plymouth Argyle 2-0. However it didn’t do Doncaster any good as they were relegated to the third division north that season.   Doncaster did return to the second division in 1950, and Calverley was still there then, winning the league trophy with them.  But injury problems and age then caught up with him and he retired from football in December 1952, aged 35.


Years Team League games Goals
1939/40 Mossley 2 0
1940/6 Huddersfield Town 0 0
1946/7 Mansfield Town 30 1
1947 Arsenal 11 0
1947 Preston North End 13 0
1947−53 Doncaster Rovers 142 11

Arsenal History Society


2 Replies to “The most curious case of the Alf Calverley transfers”

  1. Alf once told me he was sweeping the terrace’s at Mansfield when he heard a call from his manager to ask if he would like to play for Arsenal to which he said yes as George Alison had come to sign him.

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